Why can’t it be Halloween all the time? It is, undeniably, the best time of year (yes, it is definitely better than Christmas), and whether this opinion is slightly influenced by the fact my birthday is a few days before Halloween is completely irrelevant.
This is the time of year where it begins to get really cold and the need for celebrations to make this slightly more bearable becomes a necessity.
And I love nothing more than a celebration that generates copious events.
Yesterday, I visited Tulleys Shocktober Fest, their annual ‘fright night’. I’ve never been, being a (admittedly recently ex-) student in Brighton, Tulleys Farm is not something I’ve ever really heard about, learning of the fright night through friends who are local to Brighton.
Although Tulleys is located in Crawley, a half hour drive away from Brighton, it was worth the journey. After exiting the A23, the farm is down these long, windy country roads, which, in the dark and the fog, was a very fitting precursor to the event itself.
Having never been to the farm, I’m unsure how much of it is allocated to the fright night, but the event is quite a large area, decorated with corn leaves, pumpkins and other stereotypically creepy ‘things’. Scattered around this space are eight elaborate haunts, located within various scary venues – like a post-apocolyptic world, a haunted house, a fun fair – with live actors wandering around the farm, extending the experience past just the haunts.
The live actors were genuinely incredible. At one point, I spotted twin girls in the distance, and I could make out their long dark hair and matching outfits, as they walked side by side around the space, unwavering in their lack of acknowledgement for anyone or anything, I considered the possibility that the twins were perhaps real – real past the reality within the event itself. I started feeling like I was in some kind of Halloweentown spin off – and it was actually pretty great. The twins, along with other live actors, like the three dead nurses (who of course, fitting into tradition, had to be very sexually alive and assertive of it), leatherface, frankenstein, a mummy (who was both a mummy and a mummy, actually), and other famous and not-so friendly faces, wandered around the farm interacting with everyone, and were believable to the point they made some people cry with fear (and this really happened, I saw it). Even when I asked one the event staff (who wasn’t in any kind of fancy dress) how they were this evening, instead of telling me they were tired, or cold, they replied with ‘scared’. This consistent role-playing maintained the spooky atmosphere of the space – which really added to the whole Halloween experience. It was taken seriously by all, and that was the aspect of the evening that impressed me the most.
The haunts themselves were actually far better than I expected. Although all fairly short, there were firmly planted within their diverse spooky locations by some amazing set decorating, and complimenting costumes.
Perhaps the most visually interesting was the Twisted Clowns haunt – a 3D funfair experience, but with creepy, undead clowns running around inside. They give you 3D glasses, which changes the experience completely. Inside, the walls are painted in UV colour, and with the glasses on, you completely loose any sense of depth perception. The flooring changes, the doors are different sizes, and the walls aren’t always straight. It’s a psychedelic dream. And whilst you’re trying to gather your bearings, the clowns are jumping out at you – one even stroked my hair, which is genuinely the stuff of nightmares.
The Chop Shop was probably the scariest haunt out of them all. It involves being ‘chased’ (of course you are not literally chased, although that would be incredibly terrifying and also fantastic) by crazed hillbillies in a car garage/human slaughter house – your quintessential Halloween experience. The lights flash completely on and completely off, which is actually far scarier than a flickering light, as you are plunged into absolute darkness for about two whole seconds – a long time when you’re turning blind corners, with the whirring of some kind of electric weapon looming ever closer. At one turn, a chainsaw clutching lunatic ran at me and as the corridor turned dark, I felt a vibration next to me where his weapon hit. At that point it was clear these weapons were not just fake plastic toys, but tools that were either turned on, or very deceiving in their realness – of course I seriously doubt they are as dangerous as a real chainsaw, but it added another layer of reality, and fear, to the haunt.
I don’t want to discuss all the rides in detail because I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun who is planning on attending, but I just want to mention one more ride – the Horrorwood Haunted Hayride. It’s a ride on the back of a tractor around a haunted Hollywood (/Horrorwood) set. The film set is abandoned, save for all the strange creeps who reside there – and invite themselves onto the tractor to speak to you/attempt to thoroughly scare you. The interaction with the actors was really fun, and some young man called ‘Slash’ with make up in the style of the Joker even helped himself to some of my popcorn (after telling me he wanted to cut me up).
To add to the attraction of Tulleys Shocktober, it’s commercial but not completely packed (yet). Although the queue times went up to 25 minutes, we waited for a maximum of 20 minutes, with most shorter than this, and there was space to move around, interact with the live actors, and just take in the decorations and the general atmosphere of the space. I always find with events like this (Thorpe Park’s Fright Night, for example) that the queuing times, and the sheer amount of people in the space, really ruin the experience. However, I did visit on a Sunday evening, two weeks before Halloween (13 days actually), which probably factored in to the short queues.
As the Halloween season encroaches, what better way to celebrate than to immerse ourselves in fear and terror? Although the concept that human beings love nothing more than to be petrified with these supernatural stories that we create is a completely irrational and ridiculous concept, for some reason, it’s a reality we exist in. There is probably a physiological reason or ten as to why we enjoy being chased by actors wielding chainsaws as the light flashes comes on and off; but why psychoanalyse this when we can just use Halloween as an excuse to legitimise this enjoyment?
If you are planning on going to Tulleys Shocktober, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If you now are planning on going, Shocktober runs until Saturday 4th November, so it’s not too late. And, if you don’t want to spend the money on a fright night, there’s the new season of Stranger Things starting next week, so there’s that to look forward to.